By Erica Laceria on Feb 2, 2020 @ 11:00 AM
You make sure your kids have a routine when it comes to good oral hygiene. They brush twice a day, they floss regularly, and they visit the dentist before heading back to school. All of those things are important, of course. But the food they put in their mouths also has a direct effect on their teeth. Learn what you should, and shouldn’t, be doing when it comes to the food your kids eat and making sure they have healthy teeth. Their oral health, and overall health, depends on it!
- No to carbs and sugar. Carbohydrates and starches in foods such as bread, pasta, chips and crackers, and sugar from typical kid snacks such as cookies, cakes and other sweet treats, stick to the teeth—for a long time. This can lead to tooth decay.
- Thumbs up for fruits and veggies. Some of the best choices are those that contain a lot of water—cantaloupe, pears, cucumbers, celery. Fruits and vegetables with high water content also keep kids’ bodies hydrated. Apples and carrots are good, too.
- Thumbs down for sugary drinks. Juice? Soda? Sports drinks? No. Water? Yes. You can get your kids in the habit of primarily drinking water, which washes away food particles on teeth, and allow sweet drinks on special occasions. And, if they do drink sugary drinks, try to have them drink out of a straw. This helps keep the liquid away from teeth.
- Say cheese. Cheeses make great snacks. And, certain kinds—such a Cheddar and Swiss—can trigger saliva flow, which helps wash away food particles in the mouth and away from teeth.
- Chewy and sticky—icky for teeth. Hard candy. Jelly beans. Caramel. Lollipops. Sugar gum. Even granola, raisins, honey, syrup. These all either get stuck in teeth, or coat teeth with sugar…or both. We realize some of these are unavoidable when you have kids, but to avoid tooth decay, it’s important to have them brush their teeth after eating such things.
- Sugarless gum is good. As we said, gum that contains sugar is bad for teeth. We know, we know…kids love to chew gum. Sugarless gum is a great alternative! It can help rinse off and remove acid on teeth to protect enamel—and it also increases saliva flow. Also, you can get fun flavors that kids will still enjoy.
Cut Down on Sweets, Encourage Brushing
Bottom line? The best way to protect your kids’ pearly whites is to reduce the amount of sugar they eat. Between ads on TV, food placement in grocery stores (ever notice that the things you DON’T want your kids to eat are right at their eye level on the shelves?), busy schedules that make healthy eating a challenge, and so on, we realize it’s easier said than done. But there are more healthy choices that can fulfill the craving for something sweet, and that will keep plaque at bay.
Realistically, however, your kids are going to eat foods that aren’t the best for their teeth—despite your efforts. It’s just going to happen. So it’s also important to teach children good brushing habits. This means in addition to twice a day, encourage them to brush after they eat sweets. It’s definitely not always convenient, but it’s still a good routine to get into. Perhaps you can carry travel size toothbrushes and toothpaste in your purse (you’re lugging around all kinds of stuff in there anyway!). You also could put brushes and paste in your kids’ back packs.
With some effort, you can make adjustments to help promote a healthy diet for your kids—one that in turn protects their teeth. It’s really a win-win for everyone.If you're having trouble with encouraging your kids to brush their teeth, check out our tipsheet for instilling good brushing habits in fussy brushers below!